Samantha Stephens is a name that has withstood the decades, belonging to one of the most memorable TV characters in history. In my opinion, she’s among the very best. She was classy, funny, witty, kind, and definitely had enviable problem-solving skills and endless patience.
I grew up watching Bewitched often. I’ll be honest—I know the first five seasons best, as I had a hard time watching the show once Dick York’s Darrin was replaced by Dick Sargent. The show just wasn’t the same after that and, as a result, I’ve seen only a couple of episodes from the last two seasons of the show. Forgive me if I forget any details there.
I have always admired Elizabeth Montgomery, as well as the entire Bewitched cast. Their dynamics were fun, their chemistry strong, and their antics always comedic. My personal favorites are Samantha, of course, as well as Aunt Clara (Marion Lorne), Dr. Bombay (Bernard Fox), Endora (Agnes Moorehead) and Uncle Arthur (Paul Lynde).
Samantha’s character brought out the best in everyone. She was usually the peacemaker, especially between Endora and Darrin in their frequent spats. She was brave, she was strong, and she was also creative and upbeat. Her character was sweet and always compassionate. I remember thinking as a child that I wanted to grow up and be like that. I tried mimicking her “nose twitch” (I’m not bad at it, if I do say so myself) and adopted her catchphrase, “Oh my stars!” for a bit—it still pops up in my speech from time to time. It’s one of my favorite TV catchphrases.
Here’s my take on the witch that made television history.
Classy and Feminine
I’ve long been into bringing back the wardrobes of the 1960s and 1970s. I love the bright colors, but what I especially love is the classy look. Even just to go shopping, Samantha would dress her best. Dress, gloves, heels, matching purse. The works.
One of my very favorite classy looks is the pink outfit she wears in the series’ first episode, “I, Darrin, Take This Witch, Samantha.” The pink complements her perfectly, and her blonde hair is perfectly coiffed, her make-up subtle but flattering. She’s dressed to take on the world, and that day just so happens to be the day she meets her future husband. Samantha’s style evolved to accommodate the changing world of fashion from 1964–1972 (the years Bewitched was on the air), going from classy solid colors, gloves and heels to colorful jumpsuits and sandals, for example.
Her fashion evolution seemed to suit her personality. Her classy looks matched her conservative, polite personality. Over time, Samantha seemed to open herself up a bit more, as she became more comfortable with mortal life. I think that’s when the dresses and jumpsuits with busy patterns began making appearances more often, suiting her desire to try new things, and it matched Samantha’s creative nature. Of course, given the time period, her outfits were modest and matched her role as a housewife, but they weren’t dull—in fact, she had many vibrant and beautiful outfits. Not just to wear around the house, but also to shop and attend important dinners and parties in.
Of course, there was also that black dress with an attached cape that she’d wear whenever she went into “witch mode,” as I personally refer to it. She usually seemed to don it when things got serious, and she was going out to cause some damage or otherwise teach a lesson. Most significantly, at least to me, was when she got back at slimy private detective Charlie Leach (Robert Strauss) in “Follow That Witch (Part 2).” He’d blackmailed her into giving him anything he wanted. Unfortunately for him, the high life he requested doesn’t last long when Samantha wreaks havoc and ruins everything she’s given him, even turning his new car into a kiddie car at one point. He later shows up on her doorstep, threatening her, and she sends him elsewhere.
If she dons the black dress with the cape, it’s pretty much a sign to run for your life, or start begging and pleading. Even Samantha has her limits.
Samantha has a soft spot for helping others. In Season 1, she helps a young boy with his self-confidence by using magic to turn him into a star baseball player. In Season 2, she helps a runaway racehorse. She helps a lot of people, animals and beings over the course of the series’ run, treating them all with warmth. She believes in compassion, expresses sympathy, helps where she can, and is always respectful. She may not get things right on the first try, but she always has good intentions.
She also shows kindness to people who may not necessarily deserve it. Especially Darrin’s mother in the episode “Samantha Meets the Folks.” Darrin’s mother, Phyllis, is overly critical and makes Samantha feel less than, just because she’s worried about being replaced. While that’s a valid concern, Phyllis certainly doesn’t go about it the right way and can actually be quite cruel. Still, Samantha just wants her approval and shows her kindness and concern the entire time. Being that kind to a mother-in-law like Phyllis earns Samantha some points, though Samantha never expects any award, only wanting Darrin’s parents to like her.
She is also kind to her elderly Aunt Clara, who struggles with magic and usually makes her grand entrances by coming down the chimney. She and Samantha are shown to be quite close, their relationship the most loving out of all of Samantha’s relatives, given Clara never sets out to destroy Samantha’s relationship with Darrin and always has Samantha’s best interests at heart. While Samantha’s family, like Endora for instance, tend to get annoyed with Aunt Clara and her frequent mistakes, Samantha never loses her patience and instead shows Aunt Clara endless sympathy, aid and goodwill.
However, Samantha is no pushover. She has a good sense of humor and can lighten a situation and ease tensions, but if someone goes too far, she isn’t afraid to teach them a lesson. She temporarily turns a man harassing her into a dog, and she makes Darrin’s ex, Sheila, look quite foolish at a party when Sheila keeps making passes at Darrin and throws several insults Samantha’s way in the series’ very first episode.
Samantha and Darrin
Despite their mixed marriage, which many judge and often try to break up, Samantha and Darrin are a good couple. They truly love one another. Even the worst of their spats are resolved at the end of the day, and again audiences see why the two make such a great pair. Plus, the two are always a united front; they are by nature, but they also have to be to deal with the constant attempts, especially from Endora, to break them up. They stand strong and don’t let anyone or anything come between them.
Personally, the thing that bothered me about their relationship was Darrin’s ironclad rule that Samantha never use witchcraft and his accompanied paranoia. There were several episodes in which Darrin was convinced Samantha was using magic to spy on him, or influencing something at work, and he’d falsely accuse her instead of just simply communicating with her. This was usually the cause of their arguments, so you’d think he’d learn his lesson. Plus, Samantha wasn’t a liar, and she genuinely tried to follow his wishes. Why would he suspect she’d break her promise so easily? His lack of trust in her, when she trusts him so much, is pretty sad when you think about it.
As for Darrin’s ironclad “no witchcraft” rule, I thought it was terribly unfair. He was forcing Samantha to give up who she was. She was born with her powers; asking her to give them up was like asking her to erase a part of herself. How would he feel if she asked him to give up something that was a part of who he was? He usually failed to see things from her side, though usually he’d come around and apologize for his behavior.
In a way, it was like Samantha couldn’t truly be herself around him. She claimed over and over again that it was her choice whenever someone (usually one of her relatives) challenged her regarding Darrin’s rule, but while this could be true to some degree, I always thought it was partially out of the need to please Darrin and be a good wife to him, and thus had nothing to do with her own decision.
While being a good wife is important, giving up a part of yourself shouldn’t be a requirement. Granted, it was a different time period, and thus society and standards were very different compared to today, so I take that into account. However, it still bothers me that Samantha never really stood up for herself in that regard—although there were a few times she “went home to Mother,” or otherwise used or didn’t use witchcraft to prove a point to Darrin, like the time he’d admonished her using witchcraft, then got a flat tire, which she refused to help him with (it was a good lesson in karma for Darrin). They say it’s important to pick your battles—and Samantha usually chose wisely.
Darrin wasn’t a bad guy; I just thought he could be narrow-minded and stubborn from time to time. However, there was usually some tender moment between husband and wife that reminded me why Samantha loved him and vice versa, and that’s what really counts in any relationship.
One of the things I admire most about Samantha is the fact that she found a way to adjust to a world completely different from her own. She grew up practicing witchcraft, having spent goodness knows how long traveling and living (her age is never determined, but it’s implied that she’s been around a long time), and being around her many magical relatives. It was all she knew.
Not to mention, considering most of her family’s feelings regarding mortals, and how useless or awful they consider them to be, it’s probably safe to assume Samantha was raised to believe the same things. Interestingly enough, Samantha embraced what her family didn’t. In which case, Samantha is likely the family’s black sheep, but it never seems to bother her. Samantha is happy with who she is and knows what she wants—both very admirable qualities.
I would have liked to see a flashback episode to get an idea of what Samantha was like before she met Darrin. Did she want to figure out mortals for herself? Samantha was obviously away from her mother for some time in order to meet, fall in love with, and eventually marry Darrin, but why had she left to begin with? In the stories Samantha and Endora recall in certain episodes, it seems the two were attached at the hip, traveling all over the place together. What prompted Samantha to go off on her own? Did she intend to rebel against her mother? How did she figure out mortals were different than what her family said they were like? What changed her mind?
All of these things audiences will never know but, in a way, maybe the journey isn’t as important as the destination. Samantha found a man she loved and embraced a life she couldn’t have been happier with. In the first couple of seasons, she exhibited some anxiety regarding her inability to cook and clean as she struggled to learn, and she even took up driving and other mortal things, trying to be more mortal-like. She wanted to adopt the ways of her new world, enjoying things like making dinner for clients of Darrin’s and Larry’s and even shopping for bargains in “Which Witch Is Which?” Her eagerness to learn, and to do things well, was part of her drive and desire to find a place in a world different from her own.
I have to wonder if Samantha felt out of place in her own supernatural world to take on the mortal world so eagerly. Maybe she felt like she never quite fit in—she was shown to not be very experienced at witchcraft in the show’s beginning; perhaps she felt she was behind and couldn’t catch up? Perhaps she was intimidated by her powerful parents? Whatever the case, Samantha was open to leaving her world behind and adopting a new one, or rather, living in both worlds. Most likely, there was a story there. It’s not that she abandons the supernatural world entirely; she is shown to love her relatives and still use magic here and there, especially to fix messes and misunderstandings.
She never outright rejected her heritage, though many of her family members thought she had. She joined her Aunt Clara and fellow witches in teaching one of Darrin’s clients a lesson when it came to prejudices against witches, and Samantha took it very seriously. She still cared about her heritage; she just wanted something different. Both the supernatural and mortal worlds impeded on one another, but Samantha usually found some kind of balance between them, and made it look easy. Even with what could be construed as disaster if someone witnessed her witchcraft or if she’d offended a family member, Samantha was good at solving problems and making it look effortless.
Samantha proved that you didn’t have to fit into a box to belong somewhere. You could choose something different for yourself compared to where you came from, but still maintain roots. You could be who you wanted to be, and be blissfully happy doing it. It’s a message I have always, and will always, treasure. Witches’ honor.